WASHINGTON, November 20 (Sputnik) – US airstrikes against Islamic State (IS) targets in Syria have helped Syrian President Bashar Assad, former US ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, has told the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee.
"We [the United States] have directly helped the Assad regime by hitting Islamic State targets in eastern Syria. These Islamic state units were not fighting the moderate opposition, they were fighting the Assad regime," Ford said Wednesday.
The former ambassador cited one case in which US airstrikes enabled Syrian government forces to break free of a siege in one of the provincial capitals despite being surrounded by anti-Assad fighters.
"In fact, what we did is we played the role of the Assad air force," Ford explained.
The airstrike campaign that started in September hurt Syrian opposition forces because it discredited them on the street and weakened the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra front which had been fighting the Assad government, Ford claimed.
Ford's assessment contradicts the argument US Secretary of State John Kerry made in a speech on November 17, in which Kerry claimed that US airstrikes targeting IS positions were not assisting Bashar Assad.
IS, also known as Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) or Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), has been fighting the Syrian government since 2012. In June 2014, the group extended its attacks to northern and western Iraq, declaring a caliphate on the territories under its control.
In an attempt to impede the military advancement of the group, the United States has launched airstrikes against IS positions in Iraq and Syria. Washington has also said it was going to provide support, equipment and training to Kurdish and Iraqi forces and Syria's moderate opposition in order to respond to the IS threat.